Supergrass Trial: Shining the spotlight on dirty war’s dark corners
This trial is not just about the UVF - not just about an organisation we can still see through the cracks of war.
Mark Haddock makes it different — different because there is a story behind his story, pages and chapters that read into the Special Branch and the ‘dirty war’.
Haddock was a CHIS — a Covert Human Intelligence Source — paid tens of thousands of pounds by the Special Branch when he was on their books.
Four years ago, at the end of an investigation known as Operation Ballast, the Police Ombudsman published a 160-page report.
Haddock was not named in the document. He was identified only as Informant 1, and the investigation logged his alleged involvement in 10 murders, including the loyalist feud killing of Tommy English on October 31, 2000.
There was other information linking the Special Branch informant to a whole range of other crimes.
And, so, when Haddock is under a spotlight, so too are those in the intelligence world who ran him and paid him.
This trial makes us think again of the dark corners of that dirty war, makes us think about just how dirty it really was.
In a conversation with me, a former senior Special Branch officer once described the UVF as “a vile, dirty, dangerous, killing organisation’. He explained: “We had to get among them.
“When you start mixing with it, you will get some splatter.”
Haddock, the one-time Branch officer told me, “was a source worth running”. He said: “There would have been more people in the cemeteries of Northern Ireland if we hadn’t run people like Mark Haddock.”
As Tuesday’s trial approaches, there will have been talk inside the UVF about what to do, and what not to do. Loyalists see this as a “show trial”.
The term “supergrass” is a ghost from the past, and beyond this trial there could be other developments, other information, that takes the police to the very top of the UVF.
So, why is this organisation still under a policing spotlight? Because it has not left the arena.
At one of its recent memorial parades, it had this to say to members: “The threat of dissident republicanism is never far away and the Ulster Volunteer Force continues to monitor the situation on a daily basis, with a view to a military response only as a last course of action, when all other avenues to quell the threat have been exhausted.”
Those words tell us that inside this organisation there is still a war mentality — that after ceasefires, decommissioning and peace promises, the UVF has not yet gone away, and has not assumed a non-military, civilianised role.
In the days ahead it will once again be under heightened scrutiny both inside and outside the court.